Most book marketing efforts focus on connecting and engaging with potential readers, which makes sense. They are the end-consumer of your writing. But if you just focus on your readers, you miss out on the most powerful connections that can support your author career: your fellow authors
Putting your focus on building a robust and active network of authors around you can be a huge boost to your writing career. You can massively leverage your marketing time by engaging with authors who are doing the same thing you are.
Who Should You Network With?
Before you start reaching out to people, it makes sense to develop a plan. You want to be strategic with who you connect with. Don’t just connect with the people you bump into.
Too often, authors think that they have to connect with Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Malcolm Gladwell to benefit from a strong network. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Connecting with big names isn’t a free ticket to success. And it’s hard to reach out to the big names because they’re busy.
Instead, look at the large group of authors who are putting in the same effort to build their writing skills, audiences, and careers as you are. They aren’t your competition, they’re your colleagues. There are thousands of authors out there playing their craft, and they are good people to know.
What is a Good Author Network?
A successful network is a web of mutually-beneficial relationships. They say that a rising tide raises all ships. You want to be able to contribute to others just as much as you want to find ways that your connections can help you. If you approach building your network with a “what’s in it for me” mentality, you’ll struggle.
But by looking for ways to help others, it takes the stress off of you. If you are just trying to “take”, people will lose faith in you and will ignore your overtures. But if you find ways to create value for others, you’ll create social capital, and investment in the relationship. Then, when you do need help with something, your network will happy to dive in.
Why Do You Need to Build Your Author Network?
This is isn’t a feel good exercise. A solid network of authors surrounding you can be very helpful. These people are working on the same challenges as you, and many have similar goals. There’s a lot to gain:
- Marketing Support – This is one of the first reasons that you might want to build your author network. It’s great to have other authors who can help you with marketing and promoting your book. They can provide cover blurbs, shout-outs to their readers, or access to promotional opportunities. But remember to help them too!
- Collaboration – While not right for everyone, there are lots of ways to work together when writing. You could write an article together for a popular blog, give feedback to each other, or even work on a book together. And other authors are great sources of referrals for experts like editors, cover designers, marketers, and the like.
- Commiseration – Writing can be a lonely, challenging slog. It’s often just you, a cup of coffee (or whiskey, depending on the time of day), and a blank screen. Your friends and family might try to cheer you up when you get writer’s block. But another author knows what that panic feels like. It’s good to have a sympathetic ear that truly understands.
Where (and How) Do you Build Your Network?
There are countless ways to meet new people and cultivate the relationships you have. The most important thing to do is keep your eyes open. For example, if you want to reach out to new authors:
- Almost every author has a website with a contact page. Send them a short message introducing yourself, especially if you’ve read one of their books.
- Most areas have local meet-ups for authors or creatives. Stop by and say hello to a few people.
- For all the debate around social media platforms, they’ve given us a higher degree of access than ever before. Join a writers group on Facebook or Linked and join in the conversation.
- Go to a writer’s or book marketing conference and start conversations with the people in the hall between sessions.
- Listen to podcasts that interview authors and reach out to the ones that resonate with you.
But that’s not the whole story. Sending an email or tweet isn’t networking. The key comes in the follow up.
- Social Media can be a great place to start and continue a conversation that doesn’t require a lot of time or energy.
- Ask if they’d like to grab coffee or lunch (if local) or a 20-minute phone call if not. Consider it a “first date” where you get to find out about each other and the projects you are working on.
- Write an email or send them a tweet or text every once in a while to check in.
- Help promote one of their projects without them asking.
When Should You Start?
Yesterday. Or if you don’t have access to a time machine: Today! One of the key ingredients in building a network of relationships with other authors is time, because you can’t short-circuit the relationship-building process. Start investing in your network today. Even if you don’t have a book that you are in the midst of writing or marketing, you will in the future.
Imagine the next time you are looking for a cover blurb for your book. Instead of reaching out to someone for the first time, and hoping that they will give you their time and attention, you just send an email to someone you’ve known for a few years. “Hey! My new book is finally getting ready to get published. Are you cool with still doing the cover blurb?”
It’s a great feeling, and it’s great feeling to help someone else that you’ve gotten to know. But it takes focus and energy up front. You have to invest in your career. Get to it, and happy networking!
David J.P. Fisher (D. Fish) is a speaker, coach, and author of 7 books, including the best-selling Hyper-Connected Selling: Winning More Business by Leveraging Digital Influence and Creating Human Connection and Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It. He also is a writer for online platforms like Forbes, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, and Salesforce.com.
Building on 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and sales professional, he combines nuanced strategy and real-world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient, and happy. He helps them understand the new landscape of Hyper-Connected Selling, where social media, networking, and old-school sales and communication skills are the key to providing value and staying relevant.
Depending on the day and the hour, he is a speaker, coach, salesman, writer, meditator, marketer, musician, son, friend, brother, slam poet, clairvoyant, comedian, salsa dancer, lover of life, teller of bad jokes, yoga enthusiast, and about average cook. He lives in Evanston, IL – next to a huge cemetery which helps him appreciate the value of every day.
You can get more insights at davidjpfisher.com/blog or connect with him at twitter.com/dfishrockstar and linkedin.com/in/iamdfish. His books are available on Amazon in print, ebook, and audio versions. And you can even hear him on his podcast at BeerBeatsandBusiness.com.